Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing Problems I Never Worry About

I read lots of tweets and blogposts from unpublished and/or self-published writers who stress over things that have never bothered me much.  I guess that being a school teacher puts me in a great spot for self-publishing.
1) Finding beta readers.  Oh my, but people do go on and on about this one.  Tweets, blogposts, online writers' groups, offline groups.  Wow.
Honestly, I never worry about it.  I just pick the desired age group and choose either current or former students (or both).  For The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay (still not quite ready for the betas, who are really more like gammas or deltas at this stage), I simply sent out a sign-up sheet in my two upper-level 7th grade classes.  I got 19 volunteers in about 6 minutes.
How will this help other writers?  Simple.  Contact a someone who teaches English or creative writing for your desired age group.  You'll have ready-made readers.
2) Finding editors and copy editors.  *eye roll*
I'm an English teacher, so perhaps that taints my view here, but I'm of the opinion that if a writer cannot find 90% of her/his own mistakes by reading and re-reading the manuscript (10 to 12 times, AT LEAST, people!), then that person needs to do some serious study of the English language, its grammar and punctuation.
After that, sending the work through 5 or 6 different beta readers should capture 90% of any plot weaknesses and remaining typos.  An editor or copy editor, then, should be a good set of fresh eyes who can catch the little problems that remain.  (For me, that tends to be overuse of certain words.)
I use other English teachers.
Of course, I'm willing to put the work in first.  So many writers right now think they can put out good work in a few months.  Usually they can't.  And it shows.
My advice to other writers?  Study English grammar and punctuation, go over your drafts a dozen times before you get readers, then contact an English teacher or two -- even if they charge you, it'll be less than another editor.
(P.S. I had a writer just the other day tell me she would NEVER use an English teacher because a teacher would be too concerned with "correctness" instead of "voice."  I wanted to smack this person.  You know, I have an MSc in literature.  I do know the difference between voice and just really bad writing.  Interestingly enough, I got a free kindle copy of one of this person's books, and it was so bad I couldn't even make it through more than 3 chapters.  Yeah, she needs to stop avoiding English teachers and get back to the books herself!)
3) Covers.  I'm fortunate enough to be the daughter of an artist and to have a rich background in understanding visual arts.  I know what I want, and if I can't create it myself, I know people who can.  And, Max, fortunately, actually enjoys the process of formatting covers (and will work for food, so we're good).
With book trailers, I just provide our lovely librarian/computer guru at school with the pics, the royalty-free music, and the script, and he does the rest.  It's awesome.
Advice to other writers?  You don't necessarily have to pay a grundle for artwork.  There are LOTS of freelance graphic designers out there.   Contact your local community college or find a silk-screen printing shop, look at the graphic artist's work and see if you can agree on a price.
Or buy something off a photo site and do it yourself.
4) Formatting for Kindle and Createspace was a problem at first -- until I spoke with a handy helper at my favorite Mac store.  Within about 10 minutes, he'd found the formatting info I needed, and everything got a LOT easier.

I read many complaints about the costs of self-publishing, but, honestly, I use the barter system, so all I really end up paying for is publicity (free books, ads, swag, etc.).
Beta readers will do it for free, copy editors require a free book or tee shirt, Max gets taken out to lunch.  Really, it's not a bad system.


  1. I agree, there's far too much hand-wringing and worrying over this. A few writer friends can do the grammar/editing etc and I reciprocate, I can design my own covers and am techy enough to do conversions.

    Surrounding ourselves with like-minded and talented people will do the trick.

  2. I think it's wonderful you have so many good resources to pull from! Self-publishing is an avenue that fits you well. It didn't fit me so well, but it wasn't really about resources in the end. If I ever do self-pub again, I'll be going the route a friend of mine takes and hiring out for everything, even though I can do my own covers and have friends who edit. It's so different for everyone, though! Just do what works for you. :)